Thoughts from and since the Austrian Brussels event

The gig in Brussels at the Austrian Permanent Representation was really interesting. Organised by Creativ Wirkschaft Austria, the national agency for the creative induistreis, it had me as keynote speaker followed by Reinhard Buscher Head of the Innovation Unit in the EC’s DG for Enterprise and Culture and then three case studies of Austrian creative businesss – which were both different and inspiring! Interestingly, the theme was Creative Services – Fuel of the Economy. The Commission has identified the creative industries as a model and a potential stimulus for innovation in the services sector so a lot of the early discusson was around that. Of course I talked about the impact that the CIs are having generally, that translating creative thinking into language and tools that resonate with other sectors is increasingly popular etc – it almost seems commonplace here in the UK but apparently is not yet in other countries. After my previous presentation at the Innova conference in Liege, an audience member commented that it demonstrated how far ahead the UK is in exploiting the potential of the sector; Mr Buscher, who was in the audience, became fairly aereated at that – ‘it is not a question of who is ahead and who is not’ stomp, stomp – I was amused but of course agree with him – the lead we had ten years ago in Europe and indeed across most of the world is clearly much eroded now – stuff that is happening in Germany, in Singapore , in China even, really requires we look to our laurels! the recent cuts across the arts will see our advantage further dissipated – I dont want to go into a ‘We’ve never had it so good in the arts world’ routine but it has been a good and creative period – simply as a theatre goer, still my driving passion, I’ve noticed a distinct uplift in the quality of work I’m seeing both in and outside of London – some years ago, I had begun to think we were really losing it! And it is lovely almost to rediscover the magic of it all!
But the impact of the cuts now – and especially the patronising division between regions and London – is going to place all that creative potential at risk. As I write, I don’t know whether to sound off about the regional ‘apartheid’ or about the financial laying waste of brilliance! Probably neither – Simon Jenkins did it better than I ever could in the Guardian (I think 21st October).